‘Dangerous precedent’: Jan. 6 committee trains its sights on false pro-Trump electors
GOP officials in five states illegitimately claimed to be qualified to declare Donald Trump the winner in 2020. And Trump allies were openly involved.
As Capitol attack investigators dig into efforts by state-level Republicans to send Congress “alternative” slates of 2020 presidential electors, they’re zeroing in on the involvement of Donald Trump’s White House and campaign operations.
As presidential electors gathered in December 2020 to affirm Joe Biden’s victory, the Republicans who would have been Trump’s electors in several states that Biden won gathered anyway to cast unofficial votes. In five of those states — Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia — those electors then signed certificates claiming they were “duly elected and qualified” to represent their states.
Those certificates were then mailed to the National Archives and Congress. Now the Jan. 6 select panel is looking deeper at the Trump network’s role in that strategy, which Democrats increasingly say may have amounted to a crime.
“We want to look at the fraudulent activity that was contained in the preparation of these fake Electoral College certificates,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Capitol riot committee. “And then we want to look to see to what extent this was part of a comprehensive plan to overthrow the 2020 election.”
The select committee is expecting a new tranche of documents from the National Archives related to its false-electors inquiry, according to its chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). The Archives has confirmed it’s compiling materials on the matter, Thompson told reporters, describing the apparent involvement of the Trump political or governing apparatus in the certificates as a “concern.”
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), another panel member, said the submission of the electoral certificates — claiming to be legitimate — was a “dangerous precedent.”
Under federal law, after states certify their presidential balloting, electors for the winning candidate are required to meet in their state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. In 2020, that was Dec. 14. While Democratic electors in key swing states met to cast their votes, Republicans who would have been electors had Trump won gathered as well.
Those sideline pro-Trump gatherings, organizers said, were meant to preserve legal options in case Trump prevailed in any of his doomed court cases. Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, organized the efforts, according to The Washington Post and CNN.
In addition to the five states where GOP officials claimed to be the true electors despite Biden’s victory, Trump backers in Pennsylvania and New Mexico also signed certificates. But those Republicans hedged, saying their votes should only be counted if Trump prevailed in his legal challenges.
Nevertheless, New Mexico’s attorney general has referred the matter to federal prosecutors and continues to review potential violations of state law. The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said the documents didn’t meet their standard for forgery because of the caveat that their signatories invoked.
The decision to deploy illegitimate electors highlights the deliberation of Trump’s allies in their attempts to keep his effort to reverse the election alive. Top Trump White House officials at the time — including adviser Stephen Miller — made clear they were tracking “alternative” slates of electors in real time.
And several state parties said the Trump campaign played a role in directing them to hold their elector meetings, describing it at the time as a way to preserve the defeated president’s legal options as he fought doomed court battles to overturn the results.
When those court battles failed, other Trump allies — like attorney John Eastman — suggested that then-Vice President Mike Pence, tasked with presiding over the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, could introduce the unofficial pro-Trump electors to cast Biden’s victory into doubt.
Nessel, in recent interviews, has said the evidence points toward a coordinated effort to convene GOP electors in multiple states Trump lost and have them declare themselves authentic electors for that state. She noted that the forms the electors used in different locations were nearly identical, from their wording to their fonts.
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